Deep Space 9–Ethics

On Star Trek Deep Space 9, a women with an anti-technology philosophy secretly arranged for a ship carrying colonists to crash on a planet which had a device that prevented the flow of electricity.  She herself designed and installed the device prior to the “crash” — it was all planned by her.  Thus they were stranded and had to live her eutopian philosophy of “back to nature” — a primitive agrarianism. She seemed to have their best interests at heart–she had good intentions. After 10 years they were all quite happy and had newfound meaning and purpose in their lives. There were about 20 of them, and Community was everything. They were all very close and the overriding concern was the good of the community as a whole. (One wrinkle was that she got them all to agree to a harsh form of punishment—being locked up in a box for a day or two for breaking the rules of the community.) Over the years, 3 or 4 people died of disease which could have been cured with technology. Chief O’Brian and Cmdr. Sisko crashed on the planet and discovered that the woman had orchestrated the entire situation and had lied to the community for years. She tried to break Sisko by punishing him for breaking the rules, but Sisko was physically and mentally and spiritually stronger, and withstood her punishments.  In the end, when O’Brian had discovered the anti-technology device and the plot resolved, the people of the community had the chance to leave and go back to civilization, but no one wanted to go—they all chose to stay.

The question is, If something is based on a lie but has good consequences, is it really good? Is it ultimately good? I guess if you’re a Kantian the answer would be No, but if you’re a Utilitarian the answer would be Yes. I have to take the Kantian route here myself. The colonists were lied to-they didn’t have freedom of choice (until Sisko and O’Brien revealed the true situation).  There’s something amiss if someone doesn’t have freedom of choice. Had she explained to them all and proposed this kind of existence, and they freely chose to enter into it in the beginning, then no ethical boundaries would have been crossed.  But as it stands, what she did was unethical.

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